History of the Vigneron, Part 3.2 The impact of 19th century ideological and political battles upon the historical record.


The Thinker in The Gates of Hell at the Musée Rodin, source Wikipedia

By Dean Alexander

The chicken, the egg? A question of influence.

In a 1999 book review of Pierre Nora’s ‘Realms of Memory: The Construction of the French Past,” historian Sunil Khilnani wrote that the book’s focus was how historical “meanings are created, manipulated, circulated and disputed”. Charges that history has been created and manipulated to fit a particular meaning is a sideshow that, in many ways, has dominated the academic landscape of the French Revolution for the past 40 plus years, and spilled over into the history of the 19th-century as well.  As we will see, this all would begin in the mid-1970’s, when François Furet attacked the traditional approach to French history, contending that it contained paradigms of Marxist theology. Furet’s attack was devastating for Alfred Soboul, who at the time was the world’s leading authority on the French Revolution, and set in motion a conflagration of what had been the traditional understandings of the modern history of France.

Although Furet’s concepts were successful as disruptors, it has become clear that the ideas which he proffered in replacement were not wholly accepted either. Arguments as to the true meaning of the French Revolution have persisted to this day, but having morphed, Khilnani notes in his review of ‘Realms of Memory’, into what may be little more than contrivances and manipulations.

Some historians have spent virtually their entire careers intellectually sparring over what amounts to little more than socio-political maneuvering. Conversely, it may be the case that once history has been written, any future historian will either be forced to successfully repackage that history, or be forced tear it down in to start anew, in order to justify their position existence as researchers rather than mere teachers.

As students of history, rather than researchers or re-constructors of history, the mere existence of these arguments means that we must have at least attain a basic understanding of this intellectual battlefield. Moreover, it was the history itself which has in many ways manipulated the historian, and for all of Furet’s charges of a Marxist history, are in many ways just a continuation of the same rancorous ideological battles that the leftists, liberal-republicans, and conservatives fought, and sometimes died over, throughout the 19th century. This is the purpose of this article, to sort out the history and consider the charges of ‘manipulation’ among the historians. What we take away from it, is up to us.

Reaffirming the long-term goals of the articles which make up Part 3

Eventually, I seek to come to a reasonable understanding of what may have happened to the peasant tenant farmers of the Cote d’Or – who most certainly existed at the time of the revolution. In the case of the Burgundian vigneron, did some of those peasant families make the transition from being tenured peasants to successful landholders, or did families with money from other backgrounds and trades come in and supplant the peasants who had traditionally farm these famous vineyards? Does historian David R. Weir’s 1976 analysis that the peasantry who had been “squeezed out” of the Cote d’Or, reflect socialist or Marxist notions of a French rural exodus, or is this indeed what had happened in the Cote d’Or?

The answer of how this cultural and economic occurred, transition lies within the detailed histories of the peasantry, compiled by “socialist” and “Marxist” historians, and it is that record on which we will largely depend. However, these historians were challenged, by many accounts successfully, in 1970’s and 1980’s first by revisionists, and later others. However, the labels of socialist and Marxist politicize and cloud the issues at hand, and it forces us to look for the root source of these mid-century historian’s analyses, the intellectual and cultural history of France.


A Reading in the Salon of Mme Geoffrin, 1755, Source: Wikipedia

A Reading in the Salon of Mme Geoffrin, 1755, Source: Wikipedia

The salons of France

The reverence that the educated elite of France had for philosophers and historians propelled both the thinkers as well as their ideas throughout the 17th, 18th, and the 19th centuries. This is not to say that a philosopher’s work was so celebrated that it did not put them in direct threat of the crown, for many were sought by authorities. However,  their work did have an audience: the salons of the upper class and was attended by nobles and wealthy bourgeoisie alike. The fashion of the time venerated raffinement: the display and embodiment of elegance and social taste, idealizing wit, intelligence, and intellectual thought.  Early on, Antoine Gombaud, Le Chevalier de Méré (1607-1684), a writer know for his treaties on the laws of probability and etiquette writing, advised the well-heeled to be wary of those in court’s circles, and that one should seek out like-minded individuals to join in debate and intellectual conversation (Davetian, undated). No doubt there was an air of danger to these Salons, which were essentially private, somewhat clandestine, haute-société gatherings, where the conversation was likely to swerve to the politically treasonous, as they discussed the most cutting edge ideas of the time. It was here in the salons of Paris that notions monarchical reform took root.

The distinction and gravitas heaped upon the political philosopher during the 18th century can be seen in Edmund Burke’s (1729-1797) suggestion that Kant, Rousseau, and other Enlightenment writers were somewhat responsible for the French Revolution (Cranston 1989). John Locke (1634-1704), and early pioneer was first to write about the ‘natural rights of man’, as well as the need for representative government and the rule of law. His ideas were so radical for the time that Locke never dared put his name to his political pamphlets (Powell 1996). It was from Montesquieu’s L’Esprit des lois, (The Spirit of the Law) published in 1753, that led the members of the États généraux of 1789 to advocate a liberal constitutional monarchy (Cranston 1998).  Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who although a fugitive from French justice for many years, was friends with many powerful nobles, including the prince du Sang de Conti, and the comté de Mirabeau both of whom supported and protected him until his death in 1778.  As the National Constituent Assembly (Assemblée nationale constituante) meet on a tennis court in defiance of the King in 1789, it was Rousseau’s friend comté de Mirabeau, who famously proclaimed:

It is asked how long the deputies of the people have been a national convention? I answer, from the day when, finding the door of their session-house surrounded by soldiers, they went and assembled where they could, and swore to perish rather than betray or abandon the rights of the nation… Whatever powers we may have exercised, our efforts and labours have rendered them legitimate…


Historians as historical actors 

Historia painting by Nikolaos Gyzis (1892)

Historia painting by Nikolaos Gyzis (1892)

Throughout the ensuing century, both theorists and historians directly or indirectly would drive French policy. Historians were so revered among the elite society that two of its most famous, François Guizot, of the Sorbonne, and the journalist/historian Adolphe Thiers* were entrusted with great power at the head of government. Guizot worked first for Louis XVIII as the secretary-general of the ministry of the interior, until Napoleon returned from his exile in Elba in 1815. Fifteen years later Guizot would serve in various high-ranking capacities during the entirety of king Louis-Philippe’s reign; most notably for his role in the establishment of secular education, as minister of education. In 1840 he became minister of foreign affairs, and during the last year of Louis-Philippe’s reign, he served as prime minister.

Adolphe Thiers came to be a noted authority of the French Revolution, not as a scholar, but as a cultural and political journalist and historian/author. Through his writings, he was instrumental in building dissent against King Charles X, which lead to that king’s overthrow in 1830.  He would later serve the populist “king of the French”, Louis-Philippe, as prime minister in 1836 and again in 1840. Later, in a masterful resurrection of his political career, in 1871 he would the direction the French Army in crushing the communard uprising in Paris, and later that same year is elected as the president of the Third Republic from 1871 to 1873.

While Thiers and Guizot left a direct impact on “event history”,* the socialist and communist thinkers to their political left, would end up leaving a greater imprint upon the written history of France. The writings of Karl Marx and other communists of his day came out of an extension of classical German philosophy of Hegel and Kant, and as such, these ideas were not unfamiliar to intellectuals of the day.  Additionally, the extended concepts of a rural exodus, class consciousness and the value of labor were not solely products philosophical imagination, but in many ways were a mirror of the growing pains of industrialization beginning in 1830. More, Marx’s labor theory of value, historical materialism, and his stages of history did find its advocates among historians who sought to give an intellectual structuralism to “event history” which was as William H. Sewell describes, “atheoretical” and “intellectually bankrupt” (Sewell 2005).

In an attempt to lend a scientific legitimacy to the study of history was made by historian Alphonse Aulard (1849–1928) with his adaptions of the philosophical school of positivism. Using Auguste Comte‘s intellectual reliance on theory and observation, the positivists applied a rigid methodology of relying on primary sources, the need to verify collected information, before allowing themselves to arrive at their conclusions. This, however, did not mean that carefully culled information can not be intentionally or unintentionally bent to fit the original hypothesis.

The goal to find order, meaning, and structure within a field of study which in the past century been referred to as the softest of sciences, has been a common thread among modern historians. Whether these attempts were to find greater meaning within history, or to strike for intellectual parity, to achieve a modicum of the prestige that the hard sciences enjoy, probably depends on the viewpoint of the individual.  But you can see this quest for legitimacy very early on, from Karl Marx, whose theories professed to be like the hard sciences, offering a structure that would explain the development man’s economies in a repeatable and predictive fashion, to the positivists, with their rigid methodology, and the Annales scholars who searched for understandable long-term social structures might give greater understanding to the action and events of man.

It has been quite a fall from grace from a time when historians were chosen to be statesmen, given the reigns of one of the world’s greatest powers, to where historians are now, that a newly minted doctorate in history can have trouble finding a $60,000 a year job in teaching, and liberal studies departments, even in the greatest of universities, are sadly anxious because the low enrolments within their disciplines. With employers increasingly wishing to deflect the cost of training new employees back upon the educational system, graduate, and undergraduate programs that do not deliver the perceived needs of the hiring manager, increasingly find it difficult to fill their lecture halls. The rapid demise of classical education is an incredibly sad endemic and a poor commentary on the future of our country.

The historical and philosophical underpinnings of the liberal-républicain tradition.

Despite the many charges since 1970 of a Marxist dialogue, we can view this “socialist” historiography as easily having been a reflection of the events within France. If we are to consider the relationship between the historical and philosophical origins of the major theoretical and political movements of the 19th century, we will see enough commonalities to cause us to question the origin of any particular idea.

Just as mid-century liberal-républicains had grown out of the turbulent 1789 Revolution, and France’s eventual entry into industrialization, so too had the Marxists and Anarchists. In this case, it is useful to consider the mid 20th-century theory of mentalités, which is to attempt to reconstruct the cultural structures and mentalities of a people, so one might understand what drives a society to make the collective political and economic decisions that they make.

In this case, life within in the 19th-century urban centers such as Paris or Lyon dictated the development of the political actors. The liberal-républicain developed and existed homogeneously, within the same cultural mentalités, as those groups which were considered to be farther to the political left. Consequently, these organization shared many of the same experiences and concerns, regardless their philosophical antagonisms. The first and most fundamental question of food security were followed closely by the notions of personal and political freedoms, and the pursuit of equality. These questions were difficult, if not virtually impossible solve, and as this block of people chipped away against the conservative structures which had defined French rule for centuries. The wide striations of opinions of how to proceed forced the creation of the varied French political terrain. The two basic, fundamental philosophical concepts which vied for dominance among the center-left of French citizenry of the 19th century, were republicanism and liberalism.


rousseauRepublicanism, as a philosophical family, with their Platonic and Rousseauian values of popular sovereignty, civic virtue, and the common good, is not so unique that it does not also share these same core attributes with other philosophies, in this case, Marxism. At one time this was considered very advanced, even treasonous thinking to the autocrat or the monarch, as it advocates the civic participation in government, and not only the ability to be ruled but to rule in turn (Leydet 2014). These traits do lead automatically to some degree of equality, which was an essential element of republicanism philosophy. In today’s western society, republicanism is widely accepted, and its arguments and reasoning, which lack the most complex contradictions of liberalism, tends toward establishing authoritarian systems, especially if it is steeped in the democratic concept of majority rule.

For the person who is wired to either work within an obedient, majority rules, society, be they leaders who are ‘getting their way,’ or followers who are willing to accept the rule of others, republicanism works extraordinarily well. For the person who is truly wired as an individualist, that person will continually chaff at the binding restrictions of the republican system. For those intellectuals of the 19th century who were individualists, the philosophy of liberalism called. These individualists were ultimately joined by those, who although they would ultimately seek a republican society, band with individualists to fight the injustice which can be endemic within systems of authoritarian rule.

At its operational core, Marxism relies on many of republican values. The communist belief that men eventually could and would naturally, begin to work together (in factories and other modes of production) without the need for capitalist organization and oversight. Having gained class consciousness, workers would realize, claimed the Marxists and anarchists, that the proletariat could effectively manage themselves (autogestion) in this new communism. In many ways, this was a concept similar to republicanism’s ideal of civil participation within a rotational representative government, but in this case used as an instrument to self-manage labor. With this consciousness “the chains” of the “bourgeoisie” would be broken, either by evolution or by revolution, thus ending the stage of capitalism.

This hypothetical Marxist-socialist society would work and govern itself with communal, civic virtue, working for the greater common good, in a purely communist society. According to Marx, this commune would have attained the highest developmental stage.

Marxist thought would point out, that while the Athenians had developed the notions of civic duty and Republican ideals four centuries before the birth of Christ, they were a slave economy, and thus were far lower on the economic developmental scale, than even the dreaded “capitalist” stage.

Pure examples of communal-republican ideals are sparse but include the British utopian socialists of the Chartist movement 1840’s, and a group of mostly American political philosophers, the communitarians, who in the 1970’s and 1980’s, argued for shared values and consensus building (Etizioni 2015), against encroachments by contemporary liberalism. (Etzioni, Britannica.com). Daniel Guérin wrote that the anarchist political philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, observed workers associations “for production”* springing up in an “expression of social spontaneity”** during the 1848 revolution. To Proudhon, this was more revolutionary than the revolution itself (Guérin 1936). This organic communism inspired Proudhon to advocate autogestion, in which the workers are self-managed, and idea that Marx eagerly gravitated toward, and allowed the nascent idea of the self-governed political ideology of communism to form.  However, virtually every attempt to establish a communist organization, has from its inception, fundamentally betrayed Marxism’s core republican values of civic virtue and the common good, as well as absolving any notion of worker’s self-government. What developed were no more than dictatorships often despotic, behind a thinly veiled communist disguise.

(*) Guérin’s words  (**) Proudhon’s words

Liberalism, and the more extreme Anarchism

Conversely, liberalism with its important individual freedoms has its inherent pitfalls, and however important its application, remains an old philosophical quagmire. However, rudimentary its assertion that man should enjoy personal freedom, it stumbles when simultaneously attempting to establish equality. An infinite loop of contradictions, liberalism as a political philosophy is symmetrical in its yin-yang twin pillars: individual freedom, and its contradictory desire for social and economic equality.  As any state leader charged with the responsibility of maintaining order would contend, unfettered personal freedom is detrimental to the common good, and must be mitigated with republican ideals of the rule of law and the common good too. Liberalism’s inherent decadence’s to some degree, must always be chaperoned by its companion, republicanism.

Portrait of Pierre Joseph Proudhon by Gustave Courbet, 1865, source wikipedia

Portrait of Pierre Joseph Proudhon by Gustave Courbet, 1865, source Wikipedia

The most extreme proponent of liberalist ideals have the various factions of the Anarchist philosophers and economists. Daniel Guérin writes that “the anarchist is above all a man in revolt. He rejects society as a whole along with its guardians.”

Perhaps it is, which suggests a revolt at a personal level, which fractured anarchists even as it was building its ideological foundations, during the mid 19th century.

That Pierre-Joseph Proudhon receives the most ink, is not so surprising, as he was one of the first to suggest new radical changes be made by the peaceful “use of the very institutions which we charge you to abolish” (Proudhon 1851). But this has often been a minority position within the wider anarchist spectrum. Working within the system is antithetical to man in revolt, and suggests a confinement that is likely uncomfortable.

Proudhon showed his innermost feelings of anarchist angst and anxiety when he wrote that he believed that those in power viewed the citizenry as being “a monster to be fought, muzzled, and chained down; which must be led by trickery, like the elephant or the rhinoceros; or cowed by famine; and which is bled by colonization and war.”



For a brief overview of some of Proudhon’s thoughts (which were removed from this paper so it wouldn’t be so long) CLICK HERE


Proudhon and Marx: friends or frenemies: divisions of thought.

Marx’s letter (slightly abridged) to Proudhon in 1846, inviting him to participate in an international socialist literary “committee.” Proudhon would refuse, citing that he had abandoned the concept of revolution and that it should not be put forth “as a means of social reform.” (Proudhon May 1846)

Proudhon was quite well-known by the time Marx arrived in Paris, having already published four books, while Marx, who as German exile that worked as a writer and editor of Rheinische Zeitung, a communist German language journal in Paris, was not.

Most histories state that during the two years Marx would spend in Paris before his expulsion, Marx and Proudhon were friends. This understanding is likely due to Marx’s 1846 letter (to the right), and Proudhon’s warm response that implies a personal friendship. But historian Paul Thomas suggests they may have met only a handful of times, writing that “it is probable that after their initial meetings that Marx and Proudhon saw very little of each other in Paris.” Thomas notes the lack of any further record of the two men meeting, following the handful of times which were documented as occurring 1843. Additionally, the Parisian police surveillance of Marx indicates no subsequent personal contact with Proudhon, who was at that time a well-known political figure (Thomas 2013).

Apparently, by the time that Marx had been expelled from Paris in 1846, Proudhon was not viewing communism in a positive light. It would seem that Marx had not been aware of this, as he had invited Proudhon (in a personal letter), to join them in a “correspondence committee.” Proudhon would graciously refuse Marx’s invitation. Within his response to Marx, he would write his opposition to economic change through a destructive revolution, saying “I would, therefore, prefer to burn property by a slow fire, rather than give it new strength by making a St. Bartholomew’s night of the proprietors” (Proudhon 1846). In this Proudhon is referencing the meaningless slaughter of thousands of Huguenots during the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of 1572. Proudhon hoped, writes Robert Graham, that he could win “over the bourgeoisie to the revolutionary cause” and “to avoid further bloodshed” (Graham 2010), opining for a more transformative social change than Marx and other radical socialists advocated.

But it the full truth Proudhon’s feelings toward Marx’s beliefs became far more clear, soon afterward, with the release of Proudhon’s book, The Philosophy of Poverty. Within the pages, Proudhon refers to communism as “the very denial of society in its foundation.” He goes on to write: “The communists, toward whom all socialism tends, do not believe in equality by nature and education; they supply it by sovereign decrees which they cannot carry out, whatever they may do.”

This rebuke by Proudhon had no doubt stung Marx, who in several key areas had been directly inspired by Proudhon. These pivotal concepts included the aforementioned autogestion, as well as the abolition of personal property. It is abundantly clear to me, up until this moment Marx, had viewed Proudhon as a potentially important ally, with his invitation to join the correspondence committee.

Marx quickly penned a sharply critical response, cleverly reordering the title of Proudhon’s work into to the instantly dismissive, “The Poverty of Philosophy.” Moreover, Marx wrote it in French as to strike directly at Proudhon and his followers. But Paul D. Thomas interprets these events differently, writing that Marx, in turn, had been becoming increasingly disenfranchised with Proudhon’s work (Thomas 2013).

Noam Chomsky, wrote the preface the 1970 re-printing of Guerin’s 1936 book, “Anarchism: From Theory to Practice,” that at some point Proudhon had written in a letter to Marx. In that, he suggests, “Let us not become the leaders of a new religion, even were it to be the religion of logic and reason.”  In any case, it appears that Marx had dismissed Proudhon by late 1846, following the Philosophy of Poverty/ Poverty of Philosophy exchange, and from that moment onward that Marx, with Engels in tow, transitioned from political philosophers to become political activists. Two years later Marx and Engels would write the communist manifesto.

Although Marx and Proudhon had at one time found comradeship in their mutual disapproval of the ruling monarchists and their cohort bourgeoisie, ultimately the antithetical philosophies that drove communism and anarchism would reveal the substantial divide between them. The fact that they vied for the political allegiance of the same working class people, has caused many over the last century and a half, to lump these two groups into a single leftist, so-called socialist camp, but this belies a lack of understanding of these organizations, and the significant philosophical differences at their operational cores.


The liberal-republican struggle for political solvency throughout the first eighty years of the 19th century.

The same philosophical dilemma that had repeatedly played out throughout the 19th century, continually dividing and splintering the républicains of France. Although most républicains made no debate whether liberalism should be engaged, conflict arose surrounded degree to which it should be applied.

In America, where Thomas Jefferson and  James Madison (et al.) designed a republican organization of the United States, they cleverly inserted liberalist protections neatly within the Constitution through the Bill of Rights and provided that constitutional amendments could later be added. These grand, nation-building tasks were performed in what was effectively a political and intellectual vacuum.  There were no other competing groups within the colonies vying for the acceptance of their vastly differing ideological perspectives. Jefferson and the generally like-minded authors of the U.S. Constitution were both the political and cultural majority and the minority, like theTories, their king having lost the war were not invited to participate in the country’s formation. This was very unlike the situation which existed in France, where dissent within the greater républicain party itself was de rigor.

In a policy context, this contentious yin-yang of liberalism and republicanism existed in every law which grapples with a single fundamental question: does a nation exist to serve its citizens, or conversely do the citizenship exist to serve the nation? Although it had been liberal-republicanism which had been the at the heart of the First Republic, their internal divisions left them weak, and often outnumbered by the more cohesive cohorts of right-wing monarchists and Bonapartists, both of whom shared political alliance with social conservatives who desired the involvement of the Church in the public sphere.

As the pendulum of influence swung against the républicains, such as it did after 1830, during the monarchy of Louis Philippe I, républicain lawmakers found themselves excluded from the government. Républicain private clubs and political publications were shuttered, and even the using term ‘républicain’ was made illegal. In a dodge of that law, républicains took on the English political moniker, ‘radicals,’ so from this time on, the term radicals was used as interchangeable with républicains. This certainly can cause confusion.

Louis Napoleon by Jean Hyppolite Flandrin, 1863. source wikipedia

Louis Napoleon by Jean Hyppolite Flandrin, 1863. Source Wikipedia

The hopes of liberal-républicains made a brief comeback between 1848 and 1852 after the party took a majority of the seat in the national assembly.  But hope was as short-lived as the Second Republic, when its president, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte seized power, with support from Bonapartists and other conservatives, and proclaimed himself emperor in 1852. Once again the républicain party and hopes of personal and political freedoms were subdued, as the emperor’s security apparatus issued thousands of arrests and deportations.These arrests included the former Orleanist prime minister, Adolphe Thiers, who, after a brief internment, was expelled from the country for is vocal political activism. He would be allowed to return to France in 1853, and despite remaining a critic of the Emperor, accusing him of disallowing the French people of political liberty, as well as continually allowing France’s international status to be undermined and diminished (Cohn 1917).

As Louis-Napoléon’s hold on power lessened in the last years of his reign, and Thiers re-entered the chamber of deputies in 1869, at the age of seventy-three.

Although for much of Thiers’ was an Orleanist for much of his life, the political derailment of the Louis-Philippe monarchy, forced Thiers to find new political alliances. With the surrender of Louis-Napoléon to the Prussians in 1870, the political reality shifted dramatically as control of the Third Republic gradually moved into the hands of the républicains. Thiers was experienced and ambitious. He chose to carve out a niche within the ruling républicain party, that was on the upswing, becoming a conservative-républicain, unlike most moncharists who had eventually realized a monarchy was not coming back, formed a minority conservative party. It was a shrewd move on Thiers part, as he was able to grab power.

Almost thirty years earlier, during the brief existence of the Second Republic, Thiers had addressed the 1949 National Assembly. In this speech, Theirs would foreshadow his future, with an expression of his resolute belief that the laws of the nations were paramount, and should be preserved at the expense of individual freedom. Although the context of the speech has been lost, Thiers is presumably responding to liberal assertions individualism was necessary, Thiers declared, “No one person has it in his power to instantly achieve the happiness of nations.” (Castries 1983, as cited in Wikipedia). He stated a basic tenet of republicanism:

“Unlimited liberty leads to a barbaric society, where the strong oppress the others, and only the strongest have unlimited liberty…The liberty of one person stops at the liberty of other. Laws are born from this principle, and a civilized society.” Adophe Thiers 1849 (Castries 1983).


At the time of the newly constructed Third Republic, most of the power still resided with the conservative monarchists. The Bonapartists had little support following Louis-Napoleon’s encirclement and surrender the Prussians at Sedan, the previous year. Yet, despite the majority that monarchist had in numbers, they could not agree on which lineage should resume the throne, and each group would successfully thwart the other for the next two decades. By 1890’s, most monarchists had internally conceded that a king would not again sit on the throne, and accepted the political description of their traditional Catholic, authoritarian values, as “conservative.”

In contrast, liberal-républicains believed in a far greater degree of personal freedom and typically did not choose the hard lines set by Thiers and other conservatives. Historian Philip Nord recounts that even before 1870 the liberal-républicain statesmen, Léon Gambetta and Parisian Mayor Jules Ferry, both professed support for increased civil liberties, particularly concerning free speech, the freedom of the press, freedom of association. Ferry and Gambetta, along with other moderate to left-leaning républicains like Victor Hugo and Louis Blanc, pushed for the secularism within the government and sought to end the church’s involvement in public education. Additionally, they spoke of tearing down Louis-Napoleon’s imperial state, decentralizing governmental “institutions,” and disbanding standing armies (Nord 1995). But the républicains struggled internally with the never-ending quandary of republicanism versus liberalism.  Nord indicates this indecisiveness when he writes that “Gambetta dreamed of remaking a waffling républicain into what he called “a government of public opinion.”

Unlike those liberal-républicains who sought to work within the government for reform, a tactic that Proudhon likely would have supported had he still been alive, the Anarchist Congress of 1870 advocated that fellow anarchists not participate in elections. They opined “cannot have other results than the consolidation of the existing state of affairs, and thus would paralyze socialist revolutionary action of the Proletariat”(Droze 1966 via Przeworski 1985).

As the belligerents of Paris quickly escalated toward revolution in 1871, républicain lawmakers in Paris, including Ferry and Georges Clemenceau, the radical-républicain mayor of Montmartre district of Paris (and future prime minister), found that while there were vital political and philosophical issues at stake, they could not advocate or support the revolution. This was the same choice thousands of Parisians and even national guardsmen had to make as catastrophe drew ever nearer. Clemenceau commented, having failed to mediate between the Theirs government and leftist central committee of the Garde Nationale: “We are caught between two bands of crazy people, those sitting in Versailles and those in Paris” (Fenby 2015). Both Ferry and Clemenceau, as well as thousands of Garde nationale, including half of the trained artillerymen, quit Paris before the fighting would begin in earnest. Although these men were labeled radical-républicains, unlike the communists whom they left behind, they were not revolutionaries.

*Early in his career, Adolphe Thiers made his mark as one of the most read journalists in Paris, with his pieces focusing on politics, art, literature, and history.  He would use the popularity of his work at the Journal, Le Constitutionnel, and later the launching the opposition newspaper, the Nationale, to launch a well-received 10 volume historical series on the 1789 Revolution. As a liberal, and critic of the Bourbon monarchy of Charles X, his Histoire de la Révolution française’, (published between 1823-1827) was instrumental in discrediting the Bourbon king and helped lead to his overthrow in 1930.  Thiers used the money from his writing for property ownership, a necessary requirement for entry into politics. He would be elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1829 (Wikipedia).

Traditional social or “orthodox” modern French history 1900-1930

The ascension of Jean Jaurès

Lawrence Harvard Davis, of the University of Connecticut, writes that the accepted traditional history had assumed their position. The proof, it was given, was that post-revolution they designed, allowed the bourgeoisie to both advanced and protected their position by “enshrining” the ownership of “private property and equality” with legal protections. It was this that allowed the “rise of a capitalist order” (words in quotes are those of Davis, 2001).

How the Marxist concepts entered into the historical record lies in part, perhaps a large part, with an eloquent and brilliant historian and statesman, Jean Jaurès (1859-1914). Although Jaurès was most noted as a historian, he would not write his most influential work Histoire Socialiste (1900–03) until after the political and cultural events of the late 1890’s made a socialist version of history appealing, and acceptable.

Jaurès, who was already well-known for his writing for the newspaper, L’Humanité, moved to the socialist paper La Petite République socialiste in the late  1890’s, as editor and featured writer. The period was marked by ongoing trials surrounding the accused spy Alfred Dreyfus, and Jaurès, a critical cultural opinion maker during that time, would write a series of widely read articles, under the title of The Evidence. Within this writing, he would chronicle the government’s subversion of justice, and the falsification of evidence, and the general betrayal by the conservative elements within the army and civil government, of any reasonable right to a fair trial. The politically and socially divisive trial was a capping off an extended period of discontent and distrust by those on the left, of the conservatives and their institutions to the right.

In addition to being a journalist, Jaurès, he was a lecturer and professor of philosophy at two universities, and since 1885 had been a member of the National Assembly. These public positions gave Jaurès tremendous exposure and influence.  During the 1880’s Jaurès was allied with the moderate republicans (républicain modérés) which in English is typically translated as the “Opportunist Republicans,” was aligned politically at the time with Jules Ferry, who had become the prime minister of the Third Republic. But after the events of the late 1890’s, Jaurès and many others would abandon many of the core values of republicanism, which now seemed corrupt. There was a general rejection of the greater good of the nation as being more consequential, and more vital than that of its people. Indeed there was a reordering of priorities, having observed a self-serving government knowingly and unjustly destroy the life an innocent Dreyfus for no more than its leader’s convenience.

The internal turmoil created by the Dreyfus Affair brought many on the far left into power, and reflects a major shift in French culture, and their rejection of the questionable values presented by traditional conservatives.

The internal turmoil created by the Dreyfus Affair brought many on the far left into power and reflects a significant shift in French culture, and their rejection of the questionable values presented by traditional conservatives.

Through the emotional events of the “Dreyfus Affair,” which spanned the years 1894-1902 (to be conservative), Jaurès had become one of the first social democrats, advocating government intervention, both socially and economically, with the goal of promoting greater economic and social equality. Whereas various types of communists and anarchists had been pursuing similar goals, the most fundamental aspect of Jaurès advocacy was that he proposed this be done within existing capitalist system (Przeworski 1985). Unlike other revolutionary thinkers, he did not outright advocate the outright dismantling of capitalism.

Jean Jaurès, the historian

Following his widely read writings of  Dreyfus in “La Petite République socialiste,” Jean Jaurès, the academic, was well positioned to become the foremost authority on the history of the French Revolution. The general shift of intellectuals, and indeed much of the French to the socialist point of view, following the de facto incitement of the government by “the Affair,” had created fertile ground for a socialist interpretation of the history of the French Revolution.  So when Jaurès released his book, Histoire Socialiste de la Révolution Française, it instantly set what was to become a seemingly unquestioned version and meaning of those events. Just as people for centuries had understood that world was or flat, the historians would henceforth believe that the Revolution was an event of social class conflict. This interpretation would not be questioned for decades.

Jaurès claimed the Revolution was the consequence of “the political advent of the bourgeois class” (Jaurès 1901), meaning the political desires of the bourgeoisie had brought revolution as it strove for a political input. As such, the socialist mantra that the revolution was, in fact, a bourgeois revolution, ushering capitalism, of which the bourgeoisie would be the sole benefactor. The rural exodus, which was more easily identifiable as having occurred in Germany and England, was in France claimed to be the result of an “uneasiness of the farmers crushed by competition”(Jaurès 1901).  ‘Class consciousness,’ sprang from “the advent of the proletariat” wrote Jaurès in Histoire Socialiste.

All of these events, claimed the Marxist-socialist, was all part of a predestined historical industrial-capitalist stage, which was itself an incubator for “social crisis.” It would spawn “a new and more profound revolution, one through which the proletariat would seize power in order to transform property and morality” (Jaurès 1901).  While Jean Jaurès was only one of many who had subscribed to Marx’s political-philosophical memes, Jaurès was more responsible than most the normalization and acceptance of socialism into mainstream French culture, politics, and the reconstruction of French historiography.

That democracy was burgeoning, made no difference to the self-proclaimed social democrat. He claimed that these were the “essential conditions for socialism” (Jaurès 1901), and Jaurès, who had become a political leader during the early years of the 20th century, would push his followers to work within the democratic French Republic, to build a social democratic state.

Revolution, not evolution had been a tenant of socialists, particularly the idealistically pure Anarchists, who were unwilling to work within the political, democratic process of “bourgeoisie governments.” Jaurès’ eloquence and influence within the socialist community, allowed him along with former rival, Jules Guesde‘s, to bring together in 1905, many divergent, socialist groups into a single, unified French Section of the Workers’ International (SFIO). This was an important step, which today allows us to understand how Marxist and socialist ideas had become so mainstream in greater French society, politics, and would ultimately dictate the telling of French history.

As a historian, the title of Jean Jaurès 1903 book, Histoire Socialiste de la Révolution Française, announces its socialist predisposition with a frankness that would be considered unprofessional by today’s academic standards. In the opening sentence, Jaurès writes “We want to recount to the people, to the workers, to the farmers, the events that occurred between 1789 and the end of the nineteenth century from the socialist point of view.” (Jaurès 1901)

The ever more complicated name changes within the républicain party were all used to establish a differentiation between groups which were splintering as political disputes erupted from within the party. This happened so often over the 19th century that it seemed they might run out of plausible names. In 1901 the main faction of the former républicain modérés began to use the amalgamated name of Parti républicain, radical et radical-socialiste. Although many républicains were socialists, the defection of the more radical socialists such as Jaurès, forced the more centrist “radical républicain, radical-socialiste, as well as the more conservative républicain modérés” who remained in the party, to take more conservative positions, in reaction to those on their left.

Sources for Parts 1 and 2

The Creation of Identity and the Invention of Tradition, Sunil Khilnan, The Los Angeles Times, 1999

John Locke: Natural Rights to Life, Liberty, and Property, John Powell, Foundation for Economic Education, 1996

The History and Meaning of Salons, Benet Davetian, bdavetian.com/salonhistory.html, undated

Capitalism and Social Democracy: Studies in Marxism and Social Theory, Adam Przeworski, Cambridge University Press, 1985

The Republican Moment: Struggles for Democracy in Nineteenth-century France, Philip G. Nord, Harvard University Press, 1995

Communitarianism, Amitai Etzioni, The Encyclopedia of Political Thought, First Edition. Edited by Michael T. Gibbons, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2015

Anarchism: From Theory to Practice, Daniel Guérin, 1936, Translated by Mary Klopper, NYU press, 1970

The General Idea of Proudhon’s Revolution, Robert Graham, Black Rose Books, 2005

Karl Marx and the Anarchists Library Editions: Political Science, Volume 60, Paul Thomas, Routledge, 2013

The General Idea of Proudhon’s Revolution, Robert Graham, Black Rose Books, 2005

For Anarchism (RLE Anarchy) David Goodway, Routledge, Jun 26, 2013

Crypo-Anarchy, Issak Crofton, Lulu.com 2015
Anarcho-Communism, Alain Pengam 1987, Non-Market Socialism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth CenturiesMaximilien Rubel, John Crump, Springer, 1987
Manifesto of a 21st Century AnarchistNickk ÐropKick, Lulu.com, 2014

Voluntary Socialism A Sketch, Francis Dashwood Tandy, 1896

We Do Not Fear Anarchy—We Invoke It: The First International and the Origins of the Anarchist Movement, Robert Graham, AK Press, 2015

The Bastiat-Proudhon Debate on Interest (1849-1850), Benjamin Long, Molinari Institute, 2008

Citizenship, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy , Leydet, Dominique, Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Spring 2014 Edition

Social History and Archival Practice, Fredric M Miller, The American Archivist / Vol. 44, No. 2 / Spring 1981

What’s after Political Culture? Recent French Revolutionary Historiography, Suzanne Desan, French Historical Studies 23.1 (2000)

The French Revolution: Recent Debates and New Controversies, Gary Kates, Routledge – Taylor & Francis Group, 2006

French Intellectuals Against the Left: The Antitotalitarian Moment of the 1970’s, Michael Scott Christofferson, Berghahn Books, 2004

The Columbia History of Twentieth-century French Thought, Lawrence D. Kritzman, Brian J. Reilly, M. B. DeBevoise, Columbia University Press, 2007

The History of Modern France: From the Revolution to the War on Terror, Jonathan Fenby, Simon and Schuster, 2015

Reviewed Work: Penser la Révolution Française. by Francois Furet, Hunt, Lynn. History and Theory 20.3 (1981): 313-23. Web.

The French Revolution: Ideas and Ideologies, Maurice Cranston,  History TodaVolume 39 Issue 5, 1989


History of the Vigneron: Patois Part 3.1, 1780-1880: Philosophy, Perception, and the Historian



By Dean Alexander


“The Burgundian patois, to use Sainte-Beuve’s picturesque expression — “a eu des malheurs” (has had misfortunes); it has never become a living language as the Breton and the Provencal have, and is therefore doomed, I suppose, to early destruction; as its older devotees die off, and the young peasant, versed in the language of towns, learns to despise his father’s tongue.” Burgundy: The Splendid Duchy, Allen Percy, 1872


A difficult question to answer: Why were the peasantry diminishing in number?

In particular, among those who lived in outlying rural areas and spoke patois Bourguignon  

This, the third in a series about the linguistic, and the consequential cultural changes in Burgundy, had begun with the premise that many rural peasants across Burgundy had economically been squeezed from the region (Weir 1976). These were the paysans whose families had survived on the margins of success and failure for centuries, working, often in misery, small tenured seigneurial plots. With the limited fruits of their labor, they paid their local lord their cens and seigneurial tailles, the tax collector their taille royale, and the church their tithing. Whatever the cost, this system gave them protection from bandits and armies, a secure place to farm that could never be taken away from them, and belief that there was something better out there, if not in this life, then the next. Following the French Revolution much of that security would be taken away. Although now free from seigneurial and church obligation, this class of rural paysan would now face the dawning 19th century with the distinct possibility they could lose what little they had always been assured of before.

La Pay des Moissonneurs Léon-Augustin l'Hermitte (1844 - 1925)

La Pay des Moissonneurs Léon-Augustin l’Hermitte (1844 – 1925)

Because villages were built as self-sufficient communities long before a well-established road system was designed, not all villages would find themselves near a road upon which significant trade would pass nearby.  So while growing industry, trade, and commerce was introducing connectivity and an interdependence of communities across France, and fostering significant socioeconomic change elsewhere, the peasants from these small, more isolated communities continued to farm their modest plots of grains and grapes just as their ancestors had before them. It would be this hyper-localized peasantry, with limited external inputs, who would be the last to speak the patois de Bourguignon in any significant numbers.

The population numbers of these rural villages were falling however, and with their dwindling numbers, the patois was being lost as well. The traditional explanation has been that these farmers were part of a rural exodus, leaving either voluntarily for the promise of a better life in industrial centers or having been forced off of their lands, either by losses due to harvest failures and famine or by other economic pressures. However, a close examination of the presumed pressures, opens up a myriad of other economic factors which were greatly reshaping of the financial economies and culture of the French peasantry. Furthermore, closer examination reveals that the explanation of rural exodus has had close associations with Marxist historicism, which while it does not discredit the concept of exodux, it advances the need for particularly careful research.

To answer what happened to these people, requires a deeper understanding

The heading here is an understatement. The historical record is so intertwined with the political, theoretical, and philosophical memes of the 19th century, (and of those of historians since) that they are difficult to separate. To answer this question will require a journey, that while long and seemingly circuitous, at least to me, it is revelatory in understanding what life was like for most people in Europe in the 19th century. I also implore you to read this history with a sense intimacy, this span of two hundred years is far more separated by technology, than it is by time. These are histories of people who were not so unlike ourselves, with concerns and stress for family, security, and livelihood. From the radical attending clandestine socialist meeting in a basement of Paris, to the peasant farmer whose only concern is feeding his family from the yield of a small plot, come so many economic, political, and social parallels between those lives of yesteryear and our own lives today.

There are so many priorities for this paper (which approaching the size of a short book) that its ties to the original linguistic series are tenuous, almost dubious; yet what is gained is so much greater than the promise of original mission.   Many of the questions which I seek to answer, I list as a road-map to the writing that is to come, and I believe it paves a fairly good understanding of the situation who the vignerons of Burgundy of yesteryear where, and how that has imprinted their descendants today.

The questions I will address are these:  Click Here to read the road map of inquiry for Part 3 (series).



This story must begin with the storytellers themselves.

As much as diving into the plight of the peasantry is appealing, it has become apparent the story must begin with the storytellers themselves. Traditionally, those who tell history would be the historians, but for French history, there is something of a reversal of roles: figures in history who’s political, economic and philosophical analysis are so so closely associated with the history itself, that their influence upon both the events of history and the viewpoint of the historian is indisputable. As I mentioned earlier, the main historical figure in question is Karl Marx, although other leftist thinkers have made contributions to France’s historical dialogue as well. The fact that Marx was, unintentionally, a remarkably good storyteller, makes his imprint on history that much more significant. Because of this, the understanding the relationship between the historical figure and the historian becomes important.

The challenge of historical honesty

The themes and meaning of histories have proved to be greatly colored by the theoretical context that each scholar carries with them, even before writing the first word. With the following statement, Marc Bloch, of the most influential scholars of modern French history, challenges himself, and his fellow academics, to approach and analyze their subjects as accurately, and impassively as possible.

“The historian is, by definition, absolutely incapable of observing the facts which he examines.” Marc Bloch

Bloch’s quote is but the tip of the iceberg on the challenges of accounting and the understanding of history. Professor Kaya Yılmaz of Marmara University in Istanbul writes: “The discipline of history refers not only to what happened in the past but also to the act of writing about the past”. This is distinctly true. The moment the pen hits the paper, the historian himself becomes indivisible from that history. Yilmaz continues, “The nature and function of historical writing is shaped by the theoretical presuppositions, by means of which the historian reflects on and writes about the past.” As such, the body of work which encapsulates the “history” of France, has been dominated by a handful of academic lenses, those histories are distinctly colored by each approach. The two schools of thought that dominate much of the body of the history of France, and thus this paper, those of the Annales School, and those who identify themselves as Marxists. It is important to note that both dominant schools of historian appraised history through an analytic, sociological lens, inspecting small data out of the lives of ordinary people, to come up with larger themes within society. So, as any good history should be, it is rarely obvious which intellectual stance of a particular writer.

Marx, historical stages, and posthumous academic acceptance

“History is being invented in vast quantities […]. It’s more important to have historians, especially skeptical historians, than ever before.” Socialist Historian Eric Hobsbawm, in an interview with the Daily Observer, 2002.


Karl Marx and Jenny von Westphalen were married in 1836

Karl Marx and Jenny von Westphalen were married in 1836

Marx’s text came out of a remarkably fertile time of philosophical/theoretical thinking, and like other philosophies of its age, it inspected, dissected, pondered and reshaped every aspect of the human condition and thought. But more than other philosophers, Marx’s writings were politically charged. He literally called on his readers to ‘wake up’ (to use a modern colloquialism), to have as Marx encouraged, “class consciousness”, to see that “labor” was “power” and as a class, they must “struggle”. He then packaged these words into seemingly sensible, but heterodox, economic models. This was very different from the writings of other philosophers who wrote for their peers; the approach Marx used was accessible and applicable to the non-academic. The educated lay-person could easily apply Marx’s work to virtually any western European “capitalist-industrial” system. In a final distancing of his work from other philosophical thinkers, Marx subscribed to moments of written crescendo, in which he would splay out words of incitement like “exploitation”, “oppressed”and “human labor”, with distinct intonations of anger. Given his unorthodox  style, it is not surprising that he was ignored by those whom he perceived to be his academic peers. (Kreis 2008).

In a 2014 column in ‘Philosophy Now’ magazine, Robert Caldwell, wrote that many of the manuscripts that Karl Marx had been laboriously working on over the course of his lifetime, remained unfinished when he died in 1883. We must consider that there is a difference between simply not finishing, and not being capable of finishing. These incomplete manuscripts suggest that Marx was both unable to intellectually wrap up all of those vague details which dangled from the theories contained within the Communist Manifesto and Kapital, nor was he able to explain why communism seemed no closer to reality than when its concept was first conjured up. 

Although these ideas are incomplete, and published five decades after his death without his consent, they have given scholars an addendum work that gave them a far deeper understanding of the thinking of Marx. But perhaps more important to us the lay reader, is the fact these extensive writings lack conclusions. This in itself suggests that Marx had difficulty explaining the inconsistencies theories which he had ceaselessly  promoted throughout his life. This picture of unsureness, and perhaps even doubt, is in stark contrast to the intellectually salient figure that we picture today, whom was so sure of his call to the proletariat to come to action.


Prince Louis borrows all his cast-off clothess from his uncle, Amédée de Noé 1848

Prince Louis borrows all his cast-off clothes from his uncle, Amédée de Noé 1848. Marx himself would mock the Bonaparte’s rise to power in the 18th Brumaire, “The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”

Political satirist comte Amédée de Noé, was well-known for mocking the many leading socialist thinkers and politicians of the day, for borrowing their “original” ideas and peddling them as “new”(Hart 2014). Marx himself was influenced by idealist philosopher, and fellow German, Georg Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), in that “history is a progressive march from epoch to epoch”(Caldwell 2014). From this Hegelian historicism, in which man moves in successive stages toward freedom, Marx based his “Theory of History” where society moved forward toward communism in delineated economic stages ending in a Utopian community where, work was equally shared and no class was subservient to another. But where Hegel’s society is ever improving, Marx’s had a more uneven trajectory, based on the development and break down of successive class-based economic structures. Marx’s history began with an utopian-like origin, painting a fabrication of simple tribal communism, a of sharing of labor and resources. In Marx’s telling, this would not would not last however. The development of personal property, Marx claimed, created class structures, and from this, the world had become a far, far, more depraved and oppressive place. Yet Marx provided hope that things would get better again; that society will return communism, albeit in a much more advanced, and complex form. The stages of history, which Marx almost casually explains in The Communist Manifesto,  are present to varying degrees in many of his works, are:

  1. primitive communism
  2. slave society (ie. the Roman Empire)
  3. feudalism
  4. capitalism

The final stage of history, which was yet to happen, is Communism.

Marx explains how this will occur in The Communist Manifesto, writing: “Capitalism is its own grave-digger; its fall and the victory of the proletariat are alike, inevitable.” 

Despite the importance Marx and Engels lay upon historicism and historical materialism, they never wrote a definitive explanation of the “theory of history” (Green and Troup, 1999)  This, I suggest, ties directly back Marx’s unfinished manuscripts I mentioned earlier. It would seem that his many vague statements made in his early works, were based on his sureness that he could work out the details later. But it was precisely his inability to encapsulate the physical world into neat, compartmentalized, philosophical structures, that made finishing his works impossible, even after a lifetime of contemplation.

It was not until a decade or two after his death, that with a Marxist-communist movement that was truly sweeping Europe, did scholars begin to give an appraisal of Marx’s work. For some, such as Russian mathematical economist V. K. Dmitriev 1898, and fellow Russian economist and statistician  Ladislaus von Bortkiewicz, 1907, argued that, as author Henry Epps paraphrases, “Marx drew conclusions that actually do not follow from his theoretical premises”. But I suspect that Marx himself, at some level, had already come to that conclusion.


Read (here) deleted sections on Marx’s theory of History and Historical Materialism which were edited out for the sake of relative brevity

The ancient question of predestination vs. freewill

Marx would write in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte part I, 1852, that “men make their own history;” To be sure, this strong statement of self-determination.  Yet, later in Brumaire, he would write that men’s actions are confined, and driven by “circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” This “circumstances existing already” quote defines entire the basis for both his theory of historical materialism and his theory of history. I find it ironic that Marx, a staunch atheist, should grapple with the same age-old question of predestination vs freewill that believers of faith have pondered for more than two millennia.

The bible teaches in John 12:27 of God’s predestination: ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.  Conversely from the old testament comes to this verse of freewill from Hebrews 5:14: “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” For the modern reader, this verse has been much more loosely translated as “God gave us the ability to think, weigh matters, make decisions, and know right from wrong” (jw.org 1986)

For the Marxist, the balancing of these two ideas is crucial, for if communism is to happen, there must be predestination, but conversely for it to happen, as the communist writer Mick Brooks writes (2002), that “We” (the Marxist activist) “need to understand how society is developing in order to intervene in the process.”


Marx’s ideas were evolutionary but seemed to be equally subject to frustration.

Over his lifetime, Marx’s ideas and approach could be said was in a state of evolution. However, I feel the word metastatic, would be more accurate, and denoting that the work was changing, but not finding the improvement that ‘evolution’ implies. This is a topic which the famed American political scientist, Noam Chomsky touches on briefly in his 2004 book, Language, and Politics.


My impression, for what it is worth, is that the early Marx was very much a figure of the late Enlightenment, and the later Marx was a highly authoritarian activist, and a critical analyst of capitalism, who had little to say about socialist alternatives.” Noam Chomsky.


prolateriateMarx’s earlier writings, which Chomsky here describes as stemming from the Late Enlightenment, which put in the social historian’s vernacular, was “socialism from below”. This philosophical stance requires that the application of socialism be done by the people themselves, not by some state or party apparatus, which itself formed class division. For many in the 19th century was, what socialist writer David McNally called, “the dream of freedom,” and this was a concept that was front and center within the work of Marx. McNally wrote in 1984 that “Marx was the first major socialist thinker who came to socialism through the struggle for democratic rights.”

In later years however, Marx increasingly lets suggestions that proletariat would need to be led, creep into his work. This approach is defined as “socialism from above,” and was a guiding concept that earlier socialist thinkers such as Gracchus Babeuf 1760-1797 and Adolphe Blanqui 1798-1854 had already embraced. Blanqui, was well established in Paris leftist circles when Marx arrived in 1843, believed that most Frenchmen, of whom fifty percent were farmers, sought only to be left alone to farm, and have legal protections to retain their personal property. They almost universally had no interest in the kind of wholesale economic change urban leftists proposed. Any revolution, they reasoned must be by the workers, and led by a socialist elite, and it would have to occur in Paris. Blanqui would not see the ultimate test of this theory, as he had died in 1854, but the social elite did lead the massive Paris uprising of 1871, which yielded disastrous results.

One has to wonder whether these changes in Marx’s outlook were due to a gradual acceptance of this far earlier position taken by Babeuf and Blanqui, which Marx had rejected earlier in his life, or that he was more simply vacillating on the mode with which, at least intellectually, to move forward. But even more than the fact that most French did not seem to support a socioeconomic revolution, the even greater problem was that the proletariat themselves seemed no closer to ushering out the stage of capitalism at the end of Marx’s life than it had at the beginning.

Dictatorship of the proletariat 

The term, “the dictatorship of the proletariat” was the fruit of one of Marx’s followers, Joseph Weydemeyer, who used the expression in 1852 for the title of an article he wrote for a communist German language paper, Turn-Zeitung. In a supportive response, Marx, in turn, used the phase in a letter to Weydemyer, saying that class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat.” and “that this dictatorship, itself, constitutes no more than a transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.”

It seems the phrase had resonance, which along with the term “vanguard of the proletariat”, are closely associated a later time and place; that of Lenin and the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Marx himself would not use the phase “dictatorship of the proletariat” in his own work, until 1877, when he wrote in “Critique of the Gotha Programme, part IV. In ‘Gotha Programme’, he suggests briefly that the dictatorship of the proletariat is a transitional (socialist) stage between a capitalism and communism.

For a true communist, Marx’s veering from his linear, predestined “theory of history“, would surely have been a troubling concept. The entire idea that a vanguard of revolutionaries should direct “socialism from above” is itself antithetical to the very idea of communism to which Marx had originally subscribed. It is, after all, a primary tenant of communism that any existence of a state (socialist or otherwise) represents the subjugation of one class over another. As mentioned, Marx saw this dictatorship as a temporary, transitional phase, necessary to implement the stage communism.

As if rushing to address this dichotomy to communism presented by Marx, Frederic Engels would write within “Anti-Dühring part III in 1877, that “the state is not abolished, that it dies out”*, due to its lack of necessity.  He expands on this later in the paper with the following excerpt:

“As soon as there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection; as soon as class rule, and the individual struggle for existence based upon our present anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from these, are removed, nothing more remains to be repressed, and a special repressive force, a state, is no longer necessary.” Friedrich Engels, Anti-Dühring part III , 1877

(*) dies or “withers away” depending on translation.

The Pont Neuf, Giuseppe Canella 1832, source Wikipedia

The Pont Neuf, Giuseppe Canella 1832, source Wikipedia

Meet me in Paris:

Marx and the French leftists


Following his expulsion from the Prussian Empire for his political writings and criticism of that government, Marx would live in Paris for only two years, from 1843 until the end of 1844.

Petit-patriots. Source unknown via tineye.

Petit-patriots. Original source unknown (via tineye)

No doubt, the robust activity of socialist worker organizations and secret communist societies in Paris of 1843, were as large a draw for Marx, as the job offer waiting there for him as a journal editor. The radical lawyer, Étienne Cabet, a utopian socialist, and the former Cote d’Or representative to the Chamber of Deputies, was there. Cabet had just returned from a five-year exile to England after being banished for his outspoken criticisms of the Louis-Philippe government. The even more radical, and anti-clerical, Théodore Dézamy was in Paris too, having just published in 1842 what historians Sirot, Cordillot,  Lemarquis and Pennetierin, have called “the most advanced theoretical work of French communism of the period”.

It was in Paris that Marx would meet and initially befriend leading anarchists Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin. While all three shared a vehement distaste for capitalism, the anarchist position had equal disdain for democracy. This would prove to be a major stumbling block to their friendships, as democracy was a pillar of Marx’s socialism from below. Ultimately Marx would have tempestuous, and then adversarial relations with both men.

Their inevitable conflicts were indicative of the competition and rivalries which were common between leftists of the 1800’s. They battled on another for the type of change to implemented, for the loyalty of followers, and just as likely, they fought due to the hubris which dictated their desire to lead. Historian Ann Robertson wrote of the later Marx-Bakunin conflict, “As co-members of the International Working Men’s Association, they seem to have devoted as much energy battling one another as their common enemy, the capitalist system, culminating in Marx’s successful campaign to expel Bakunin from the organization” (2003). But this was to come later, long after Paris.

The “grinding poverty” of Paris

This level of socialist activism in Paris was in direct response to what Louis Patsouras describes as the “grinding poverty” which existed there. Within the city walls, there was a permanent force of “the unemployed”, which in 1842 numbered 150,000, men, women, and children (Sirot, Cordillot,  Lemarquis & Pennetierin, undated). Marx refers to this massive number of what might have bee a potential workforce as the “industrial reserve army”, whose existence, claimed Marx, put a downward pressure on wages (Marx, Kapital Vol. 1, 1867). 

Child laborers from the movie Oliver Twist, 2005

Child laborers from the movie Oliver Twist, 2005

But at best, this “reserve army” an unfit workforce, rendered physically weak by the squalid conditions and inadequate food available to unemployed French of working age. As a measure of this, ninety percent military-age men who applied to join the French Army were unable to pass its physical entrance exams (Patsouras 2005).

Urban crime in the 19th century was exceptionally high, with an estimated ten percent of the population resorting to criminality. Crime’s economic stablemate, prostitution, employed 50,000 women in Paris alone (Patsouras 2005). At that time, an estimated one-third of all children were illegitimate (Patsouras 2005, cites Langer 1969) indicating a breakdown of the family unit within a city 940,000. Sewage and water systems did not exist until Paris was rebuilt in the 1860’s, and human waste was thrown into the street to be collected. Cholera and other infectious diseases took their toll on these working and non-working classes, with 18,400 dying in Paris during the cholera outbreak of 1832. Indicating the breadth of class division, infant mortality in among the working class and the unemployed was twice that of the upper classes (Patsouras 2005).

marx and englesIt is against this backdrop that Marx worked as the editor of Vorwärts!, a Paris-based, German language, communist paper, where Marx established his idea that “class consciousness” was the “fertilizer” of revolution (Wheen 2008). His time in Paris came to an end when the Prussian government insisted the French authorities shut down Vorwärts! and once again expel Marx.  King Louis-Philip’s interior minister, François Guizot, a conservative-liberal, was only too happy to comply. While it was ultimately inconsequential that Marx should leave Paris, as French radicals were largely not responding to, or even aware of his work (Chretien 2013), Marx clearly harbors some resentment toward them, as made evident by the opening lines of The Communist Manifesto, which was printed in 1848.

“A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.”



False revolutionaries

The Peasant War-Assembling Constantin Meunier -1875

The Peasant War-Assembling Constantin Meunier, 1875

To the Marxist, the many peasant and worker uprisings of this period of French history (1775, 1789, 1815, 1830, 1832, 1848, and most fatefully, the Paris commune of 1871) well-illustrated that desperate, angry people could, and did repeatedly take to defensive barricades. To those who witnessed these grim times (particularly in England), Marx was a reassuring voice, that at some point, the capitalist-industrial age, and the oppression would be over. Marx envisioned that, as capitalism collapsed under its own negligence and illegitimacy, it would be replaced by shared-worker responsibility. In turn, each man would gain an equitable share in the rewards of their labor. He, like others, adopted a word that  (John) Goodwyn Barmby, a utopian-socialist, claimed to have coined in 1840: “communism”.

The peasant uprisings of 1789, which may have been confused as “revolutionary” acts at the time, were short-lived and in retrospect, seemingly apolitical. This was a major stumbling block for Marxist ideology, which had to be explained. James Blaut, an American social anthropologist,  wrote (undated) that during Engels’ flight across France following the February Revolution 1848 and the abdication of King Louis-Philippe, that Engels “bitterly, bitterly, denounces the peasants in the regions he went through for not supporting the revolutionary process.”

Marx was ultimately forced to address the lack of revolutionary spirit among the peasantry, and was conclusory when he would famously write: “They cannot represent themselves, they must be represented” (Marx The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte part VII, 1852). Marx reasons within that text, that the act of agricultural production in itself presented an insurmountable isolation for the peasantry. The peasantry simply could not develop a larger, shared, social (class) consciousness. His frustration, and ultimate resignation to this fact is on display, with this backhanded comparison of both peasantry and France to a sack of potatoes.

“A small holding, the peasant and his family; beside it another small holding, another peasant, and another family. A few score of these constitute a village, and a few score villages constitute a department. Thus the great mass of the French nation is formed by the simple addition of homologous magnitudes, much as potatoes in a sack form a sack of potatoes.” Karl Marx, 1852


Executed National Guards following the communard surrender of Paris 1871

Executed National Guards following the communard surrender of Paris 1871


Next Up: dominant schools of thought: the historians


References for Part 3 (series)

  1. The Splendid Duchy Allen Percy, 1872
  2. The Houses of History: A Critical Reader in Twentieth-century History and Theory. edited by Anna Green, Kathleen Troup, Manchester University Press, 1999
  3. Marx’s Das Kapital: A Biography Francis Wheen, Grove Press, 2008
  4. Marx in ContextLouis Patsouras iUniverse, 2005

  5. The Philosophical Roots of the Marx-Bakunin Conflict, Ann Robertson, What’s Next, 2003
  6. The German Ideology Part I: Feuerbach. Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlook, Idealism and Materialism, Karl Marx, 1845
  7. The Revolutionary Role of the Peasants, Nigel Harris,  Debate, International Socialism (1st series), No.41,December 1969
  8. Writings of the Young Marx on Philosophy and Society, By Karl Marx, Loyd David Easton, Kurt H. Guddat, Hackett Publishing, 1997
  9. The poverty of Proudhon’s anarchism, Todd Chretien, socialistworker.org, 2013

  10. Ethics Volume II, Henry Epps, Lulu.com, undated
  11. Chronologie indicative de l’histoire du mouvement ouvrier français, de 1789 à 1863, Stéphane Sirot, Michel Cordillot, René Lemarquis & Claude Pennetier, biosoc.univ-paris (undated)

  12. Language and PoliticsNoam Chomsky, AK Press, 2004
  13. “New” Socialist Ideas in the 1848 Revolution, David M. Hart, professor George Mason University, blog, 2014
  14. Socialism: Collectivist Solutions, Gregory Brown, UNLV, undated
  15. The History Guide, Lectures on Modern European Intellectual History, Steven Kreis, historyguide.org, 2000, 2008
  16. Socialism From Below, David McNally, International Socialists, Canada, 1984
  17. Logics of History, Social Theory and Social Transformation, William Sewell Jr., University of Chicago Press, 2005
  18. The Contemporary Review, Volume 41   Alexander Strahan, Isbister and Company L, 1882
  19. The income inequality of France in historical perspective, European Review of Economic History, Christian Morrison and Wayne Snyder, Cambridge University Press, 2000
  20. The Abolition of Feudalism in France, H.E. Bourne, Historical Outlook: A Journal for Readers, Students and Teachers …, Volume 10, McKinley Publishing Company, 1919
  21. The Remaking of France: The National Assembly and the Constitution of 1791Michael P. Fitzsimmons, Cambridge University Press, May 9, 2002
  22. What do people die of during famines: the Great Irish Famine in comparative perspective, Mokyr,  Cormac,  Ó grada, European Review of Economic History, 2002
  23. Peasantry and Society in France Since 1789, Annie Moulin,Cambridge University Press, 1991
  24. French Rural History (Routledge Revivals): An Essay on its Basic Characteristics, Marc Bloch, Routledge 2015
  25. The unique decline of mortality in revolutionary France, PubMed.gov
  26. Histoire et mémoire des immigrations en région Bourgogne, Pierre-Jacques Derainne, Université de Bourgogne, 2006
  27. The Little Ice Age in Europe, Proffessor Scott Mandia, Sunnyfolk Community College
  28. Great Historical Events that were Significantly Affected by the Weather: Part 9, the year leading to the Revolution of 1789 in France (II), J. Neumann & J. Dettwiller, The American Meteorological Society, 1990
  29. Rising Life Expectancy: A Global History, James C. Riley, Cambridge University Press, 2001
  30. Life expectancy infant mortality, Peter Lindert, UC Davis, 2007
  31. Liszt as Prophet: Religion, Politics, and Artists in 1830s Paris, Andrew Haringer, Columbia University, 2012
  32. City-Farm Wage Gaps in Late Nineteenth-Century France, Pierre Sicsic The Journal of Economic History Vol. 52, No. 3,  1992
  33. Why Did Fertility Decline? An Analysis of the Individual Level Economic Correlates of the Nineteenth Century Fertility Transition in England and France, Neil James Cummins
  34. A Social History of France 1780-1914: Second Edition, Peter McPhee, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003
  35. Manias, Panics, and Crashes A History of Financial Crises, Fifth Edition Charles P. Kindleberger and Robert Z. Aliber, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005
  36. French Rural History (Routledge Revivals): An Essay on its Basic Characteristics, Marc Bloch, Routledge 2015
  37. The Making of Urban Europe, 1000-1994,  Paul M. Hohenberg, Lynn Hollen Lees,  Harvard University Press, 2009
  38. The Economic Crisis of 1827-1832 and the 1830 Revolution in Provincial France, Pamela Pilbeam, The Historical Journal #32
  39. The Comedy of Protection, Yves Guyot, Hodder and Stoughton, 1906
  40. A Comparison of Burgundy and the Midi, working paper #I37,  David Weir, The Center for Research on Social Organization, , The University of Michigan, 1976
  41. The Famine as seen by the French: The Journal des Débats and the Great Famine 1846-1847La famine vue de France selon le Journal des Débats 1846-1847, Susan Finding, Cahiers du Mimmoc, 2016
  42. Proto-industrialization in France, Gwynne Lewis, Economic History Review, XLVII, I, 1994
  43. Sur Les Fluctuations du Climat de la France Septentrionale et Centrale Depuis le XVIIE Siècle, (speech) Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Collège de France, Académie des sciences morales et politiques, 2003

  44. France, Financial Crisis and the 1848 Revolutions, Hubert Bonin, Université Michel de Montaigne-Bordeaux, France, Undated
  45. For a review of the nineteenth century economic crises in France, Nadine Vivier, History & measurement (online) University of Maine, Western Historical Research Centre
  46. Agriculture and economic development in Europe 1870-1939 French studies, Nadine Vivier, IEHC 2006 Helsinki Session 60
  47. French Economic Situation 1847-1852. Yvonne, Crewbow, University of Lille, France, undated
  48. The Emergence of Modern Business Enterprise in France, 1800-1930 Michael Stephen Smith, Harvard University Press, 2006
  49. The Culture of the Mulberry Silkworm,  Henrietta Aiken KellyU.S. Department of Agriculture, Division of Entomology, 1903
  50. Annual Report of the Bureau of Animal Industry for the Year, Volume 27,United States. Bureau of Animal Industry 1912
  51. The European subsistence crisis of 1845-1850: a comparative perspective,  Eric Vanhaute, Richard Paping, Cormac Ó Grada, IEHC 2006 Helsinki Session 123
  52. The Myth of Free-Trade Britain and Fortress France: Tariffs and Trade in the Nineteenth Century, John Vincent Nye Source: The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 51, No. 1 (Mar., 1991
  53. Litigation and the policing of communal faming in northern Burgundy, 1750–1790″ by Jeremy D. Hayhoe , The British Agricultural History Society
  54. History of the French Language, Site for Language Management in Canada (SLMC), University of Ottawa
  55. French Economic Situation 1847-1852, Encyclopedia of 1848 Revolutions James Chastain, http://www.ohio.edu/chastain/dh/feco.htm , 1988
  56. Les vignerons de la Côte-d’Or au XIXe siècle. Robert Laurent, Year 1955 Volume 19 Issue 5 pp. 209-211,  L’Information Géographique